Taking office with the promise to create jobs, Ohio’s GOP Gov. John Kasich has achieved little but dismal poll numbers in pursuit of a deeply unpopular agenda. Indeed, his attempt to demolish workers’ rights recently earned him an unprecedented rejection of a governor’s signature legislation within the first year in office.
But Senate Bill 5 represented only one pillar his misguided plan. On top of allowing guns in bars and passing corporate-friendly budget blows to Ohio’s vulnerable populations, Kasich is opening Ohio’s state parks to fracking — a method of natural gas drilling that contaminates water supplies with radioactive material.
Seventy percent of Ohioans oppose Kasich’s plan to drill on public lands. And for good reason, as one home in Cleveland, Ohio actually exploded after gas seeped into its water well. But Kasich remains obstinate in his support: “Ohio is not going to walk away from a potential industry.”
According to new report from the nonpartisan Common Cause, however, the oil and gas industry may have provided Kasich with plenty of reasons not to walk away. Kasich has taken $213,519 in contributions from the oil and gas industry, “the most of any Ohio politician.” Kasich’s spokesman Rob Nichols insisted that the fracking policy is solely for jobs, and that the industry has been “warned” to follow Kasich’s “environmental rules and regulations”:
“Over the next four years, shale is expected to create more than 200,000 jobs in Ohio and bring in nearly half a billion dollars in additional revenue to the state,” [Nichols] said. “While the governor has warned the industry that they better play by our environmental rules and regulations, we are glad to have the support of an industry that is poised to reinvigorate Ohio’s economy and put a whole bunch of Ohioans back to work.”
It’s unclear what rules and regulations Kasich actually plans on enforcing. Because of then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s request in 2005, the federal EPA was stripped of its power to regulate fracking. What’s more, Kasich appointed a Dubai oil and gas executive to run the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) — a move which will unlikely yield environmental regulation.
In naming his business-friendly directors for Ohio’s EPA and ODNR, Kasich said he wants to “exploit the wonders of our state.” And this willingness to exploit state lands and parks earned him the largest check in Ohio from the oil and gas industry. “We give campaign contributions to support those candidates who support good government and who support the development of reliable and plentiful energy supplies in Ohio,” said the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. “We do not support candidates who do not support those concepts.”